Intro: It has been a night of highs and lows for the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, there was the high of observing the Passover with His disciples in the upper room.
There was the low of Judas Iscariot abandoning the Saviour to go and betray Him to His enemies.
There was the high of His ministry to His disciples as they walked from Jerusalem, across the Kidron River to Gethsemane.
There was the low of His spiritual agony as He prayed in the garden.
There was the high of His total and absolute surrender to His Father’s will.
There was the low of Judas kissing Him and His arrest by the soldiers.
In spite of all the activity, this night was far from over.
Before dawn came, Jesus had many more difficulties to face.
The passage we are studying today tells us about one of those difficult times.
In these verses, we have the details of our Lord’s trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
In this trial, Jesus is accused and condemned by the very people He came to this world to save.
They arrested Him, arraigned Him, accused Him and condemned Him, they believed that they were judging Jesus that night.
In reality, He was judging them!
In truth, this text does not show Jesus on trial as much as it shows Israel on trial.
In a very real sense, Israel is standing at the judgment seat.
They are in the presence of their Messiah, their King, their God, and their Judge, but they are too blind to see Him for Who He is.
The nation of Israel was on trial that night.
They were judged by the Lord of glory and they were declared guilty.
I want to preach about Israel At The Judgment Seat.
I want to show you the areas in this trial where they stood guilty before the Lord.
They Were Guilty In Their Convocation; They Were Guilty In Their Confrontation; and They Were Guilty In Their Condemnation.
Let’s study these areas of the Lord’s trial together today.
In these verses we see the judgment of a nation, but we will also see what takes place when an individual rejects Jesus Christ.
Notice with me the areasof Israel’s guilt as I preach on Israel At The Judgment Seat.
I. THEY WERE GUILTY IN THEIR COURT PROCEEDINGS-VS.
When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, He was first taken to the home of Annas, John 18:13.
He was the father in law of the current High Priest Caiaphas, and apparently a man of considerable influence among the Jews.
After Annas was finished questioning Jesus, he sent Him bound to Caiaphas, John 18:24.
Our text deals with the Lord’s trial before Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin was the 71 member supreme court of Israel.
The word “Sanhedrin” literally means “to sit together”.
They were the official rulers of the nation.
The members of the council were chosen for their maturity and their wisdom.
They were expected to be utterly fair and impartial in all their rulings.
The High Priest was in charge of the proceedings and thus he took center stage in the Lord’s trial.
We can only speculate, but it seems clear that when the word went out that Judas was leading the soldiers to Jesus’ location, the Sanhedrin began to gather together.
These powerful, religious men could smell blood.
They had wanted to destroy Jesus for some time, and this was their chance.
So, they came together to judge Him.
Their little convocation was illegal on several levels.
The illegal nature of their proceedings would have invalidated any rulings they might have issued, but the wheels of divine sovereignty are in motion and they will not stop until Jesus is dead on the cross.
I want to take a moment to share with you the reasons why this trial was illegal.
A. It Was Illegal Because Of When It Was Held – The Jew’s own laws, that regulated their court system, prohibited them from having a trial at night or on a feast day.
Having a trial at either of these times would prevent the entire council from gathering, and it would prevent the accused from mounting an effective defense, since it would make it more difficult for witnesses to come to the trial.
This trial obviously violated these provisions, since it was held at night and on the Passover.
B. It Was Illegal Because Of Where It Was Held – The same Jewish law mandated that all trials conducted by the Sanhedrin were to be held in The Hall Of Hewn Stones, which was located on the Temple grounds.
This rule was violated because the trial was held in the private residence of the High Priest.
C. It Was Illegal Because Of The Way It Was Held – There are many problems with the trial of Jesus that night.
Among the illegalities of His trial are the following:
1. Trials were illegal on the eve of the Sabbath because Jewish law required a one day adjournment in the event of a conviction.
2. A guilty sentence could only be handed down the day after a trial.
3. The Sanhedrin could not bring charges against a defendant, they could only investigate charges that had been made by others.
4. The charges against Jesus were changed during the trial.
He was first charged with threatening to destroy the Temple.
Later, He was charged with blasphemy.
Then, when He stood before Pilate, His charges were changed again.
This time, He was charged with claiming to be the King of the Jews and of forbidding the paying of taxes to Rome.
5. Jesus Christ was allowed no defense before the court.
All charges against Him should have been thoroughly investigated and He should have been allowed time to call His Own witnesses.
The Sanhedrin pronounced the death sentence.
By law the Sanhedrin could not convict or pass down a death sentence.
D. It Was Illegal Because Of Why It Was Held – This trial was not about seeking the truth of a man’s guilt or innocence.
This trial was over before it started!
In the eyes of the Sanhedrin, Jesus was guilty before the trial ever began.
He had no chance of leaving this trial with anything but a guilty verdict and a sentence of death!
E. It Was Illegal Because Of The Witnesses They Called– As you read the text, you can see that the Jewish leaders have a problem.
The men actually went out and “sought” witnesses to testify against Jesus.
The word “sought” means “to hunt, to seek, to crave”.
These men were desperate to anyone who would come forward and make some accusation against Jesus.
Verse 56 tells that “many bare false witness against Him”.
There were many who came forward that night willing to lie for the Jews.
They lied against the One Who had done nothing but good, and Who had said nothing but the truth.
The problem with their witnesses was that none of their testimonies agreed with one another.
According to the Law, the testimony of witnesses in a trial had to be in perfect agreement, Deut.
17:6; 19:15; Num.
Finally, according to v. 57-58 and Matt.
26:60-61, two of these false witnesses got their stories somewhat straight.
They told the court that Jesus had threatened to destroy the Temple and to built it again in three days.
Even their versions of what Jesus said didn’t agree, v. 59.
The word “temple” in verse 58refers to the Holy Place, not the entire Temple grounds.
They are accusing Jesus of threatening to demolish the holiest place in all of Israel.
To their ears, it was pure blasphemy.
Add to that the ludicrous claim that He would rebuild the Temple in three days when it had already been under construction for nearly 50 years.
The fact is, Jesus did not say what they claimed He said.
In John 2:19, Jesus did say this, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
When He said that, He was not referring to the Temple grounds in Jerusalem.
He was referring to His own body that would be destroyed on the cross and raised from the dead three days later, John 2:21.
And, if you go back and read the words of Jesus, He never said that He would destroy anything.
He said, and I paraphrase, “If you destroy this temple, I will raise it up in three days.”
Their accusations were a total fabrication!
(Note: I find it very discouraging that not a single person came forward in the Lord’s defense that night.
They were not looking for His friends, they were looking for those who would testify against Him, but there were some there who could have stood up for Jesus.
For instance, John is there, John 18:15.
Why didn’t John come forward and speak up?
Simon Peter was there, v. 54.
He stayed by the enemies fire and kept his mouth shut.
We will look at Simon Peter in detail next week.